34 - Just Pete

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The holidays were different for every family in the city. Some were crazy about it; decking out the house, carolling in the streets and making too much food. My family were pretty simple about the holidays, since Halloween had always been our favourite. We hung up our stockings, sat around the fire drinking eggnog and watching as my mother placed the lights and decorations on the Christmas tree. We didn't make a big deal of it but it was always a nice time when my parents made the effort to take more time off work. With the harsh Winter weather outside, it was actually a delight staying cooped up in the house and watching holiday movies with my parents, who were actually keeping their work talk to a minimum. I had a funny feeling they were trying to cheer me up, knowing without actually being told, that I was going through stupid relationship problems. I tried keeping my mind off Peter, hoping that throwing myself into the holiday spirit, that just maybe, it would help mend whatever was broken. But each night when I crawled into bed, a book nesting in my lap, my gaze would fall upon the teddy bear he had given me. A bit of me wanted to shove it in my closet, forget about it all but I couldn't. With that fluffy and cute toy, I still had a piece of him that I could keep with me. 

It was a few days after Christmas Day, the sky dull with clouds threatening to open and cast our streets with white snow. I was keeping busy with some light reading when my mother ducked her head into my room. Her hair was down in loose waves making her look younger. She gave me that smile, the smile that meant she was here to speak with me. I closed my book, looking up at her. "What's up?"

She inched into my room, her eyes running over my mirror and desk. She spotted my teddy bear collection and wandered over to it. I saw the small gift wrapped in her hands, and wondered if she was giving me another gift. "When your father and I first started dating, we found ourselves very different." I leaned back against my pillows, actually happy to hear about their past. My parents didn't talk much about how they met or how they had fallen in love. Sometimes I wondered if all parents fell out of love at some point but stayed together because that's just what you were supposed to do. I never saw my parents kiss anymore but maybe they did when I wasn't around. I didn't know. 

"Okay?" I muttered quietly when she didn't go on, her eyes watching the dull cloudy sky out my window. When she turned back to me, she sat down on my bayside window lounge, the gift placed next to her. 

She smiled lightly. "He was a very different man back then. He was forgetful and actually the worst boyfriend a girl could want. He was always too busy with keeping up with his thesis." She paused, looking across at my chair full of teddy bears again. "I actually broke up with him for a short while, thinking we were just too different and it wasn't the right timing for us." 

I nodded, despite having no real idea why she was telling me all this. "But then I went on this date with Jackson Downing. He was a lawyer's son, very rich and very arrogant." She laughed at the memory. "That's when I realised it. I was sitting in some fancy restaurant, sipping at expensive wine and listening to him talk about going on some ski trip with his college friends. I sat across from him and knew I had made the biggest mistake."

She reached over, grabbing the teddy bear Peter had given me. "What mistake?" I asked quietly, watching my mother from my spot on my bed. 

"The biggest mistake in leaving your father," She looked up, her eyes meeting mine. "Your father had made mistakes and maybe, wasn't the best man that I thought I would love. But he was the man I loved and I realised that whatever had happened in the past, it was all that, the past. Nobody is perfect, Florence, that's what makes us human. We make mistakes and break promises. But when you love somebody, you can't just pretend you do not. When you miss them, it means you need them."

I realised she was telling me this story because of Peter. Even though I hadn't uttered a single word about him, she had that mother's instinct. A tear leaked down from my eye and I smeared it away quickly. She got to her feet, handing me the wrapped present. I read the name printed on the tag. Peter Parker. 

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